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Posts Tagged ‘César Aira’

What We’re Loving: Digressions, Disappointments, Delicious Kisses

March 21, 2014 | by

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William N. Copley, Untitled, undated, hand-painted Marie Brizard glass bottle, 8 x 3 x 3 inches. Image via Paul Kasmin Gallery.

Paul Kasmin Gallery has a show up about the Iolas Gallery, which was open from 1955 to 1987 and was helmed by Alexander Iolas. He’s best remembered as the dealer who (along with William Copley, in California) helped introduce the Surrealists to the American art world; the work on view, which he originally showed, is worthy of a museum exhibition—paintings by Magritte, de Chirico, Ernst, and Man Ray. But Iolas championed art that suited his taste, rather than art that was trendy, which means he liked what was, at the time, very weird stuff—such as Joseph Cornell, Copley, and Takis. He gave Warhol his first gallery exhibition when the artist was eighteen, and he was the first to show Ed Ruscha in New York. In Paul Kasmin’s showcase, there’s a wonderfully big, ethereal painting by Dorothea Tanning and a bronze toilet in the shape of a fly (the paper is dispensed through the fly’s mouth, and you can store reading material in a bin under its thorax) by Les Lalanne. My favorite, though is a hand-painted glass bottle by Copley covered with tiny blue nudes, a modern take on the Grecian urn. —Nicole Rudick

In our recent interview with Matthew Weiner, the Mad Men creator states, “To me … digressions are the story.” César Aira’s wildly funny novel, The Conversations—recently translated by Katherine Silver—is one long digression: two friends discussing an action movie argue over the inconsistency of a Rolex watch on one of the film’s goatherd characters. This seemingly small error sets off an exploration of, among other topics, the reinterpretation of memory, reality vs. fiction on film, and storytelling in our “technological state of globalized civilization.” As Aira writes, “What had seemed about to come to an end had, in fact, just barely begun.” —Justin Alvarez

I realize I’m 993 years late to this party, but Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji, as centuries of scholars and readers know, is one of the richest and soapiest books ever written—not bad for what’s arguably the first novel ever. The story follows Emperor-spawn Genji as he navigates his way through the Imperial Court of eleventh-century Japan, marrying, political-intriguing, philandering, marrying again, and predating Freudian psychology by nearly a thousand years. The Penguin edition, translated by Royall Tyler, retains the high language of the original Japanese while situating the modern reader in a world in which poetry could make policy—would that it could today!—and the intricacies of court hierarchy could make even a Junior Fourth Rank, Upper Grade Left Officer’s head spin. —Rachel Abramowitz

I’ve just received a new translation of Louise Labé’s love sonnets and elegies. Labé wrote during the French Renaissance; after her death, her poems fell into obscurity until they were rediscovered in the nineteenth century. Earlier today, I flipped through its pages and landed on Sonnet 18, which brought an immediate smile to my face. It begins,

Kiss me, rekiss me, & kiss me again:
Give me one of your most delicious kisses,
A kiss in excess of my fondest wishes:
I’ll repay you four, more scalding than you spend.

You complain? Well, let me ease your pain
By giving you ten more honeyed kisses.

What it lacks in subtlety it recoups in passion. No need to compare your love to a summer’s day: just bring on the kisses. —Dan Piepenbring Read More »

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Staff Picks: Murdock Pemberton, ‘The Last September’

January 20, 2012 | by

Elizabeth Bowen.

Late at night I’ve been savoring Elizabeth Bowen’s 1929 novel, The Last September, about feckless English gentry in County Cork on the eve of civil war. This is Bowen in her early, super-Georgian mode. It’s like The Wind in the Willows meets Mrs. Dalloway, with IRA incursions. —Lorin Stein

This week I finally had a chance to crack open the momentous, beautiful Portrait of Murdock Pemberton. It presents sixty years of accumulated paraphernalia collected by Pemberton, the first New Yorker art critic and a founder of the Algonquin Round Table—paraphernalia that turned up only recently, stored in suitcases in his family’s attic. There are love letters; Freudian analyses conducted by mail; vintage art-gallery brochures; epistolary exchanges with Harold Ross, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Alfred Stieglitz, among others; and of course a plethora of New Yorker columns from the early days of the magazine—all spotted with charming satiric quips on the editorial process, like “every third week or so we feel the editorial complex empowering our sense of proportion and we give vent to a little sermon” or “to keep his luck running fair, every critic should be honest with you now and then.” Indeed!—Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn

One day in 1923, a Panamanian civil servant with no interest in poetry returns home from work and composes a long poem that becomes a landmark of the Latin American avant-garde. Such is the premise of César Aira’s Varamo. The rest of the novella reconstructs the events that lead up to (but fail to explain) this mysterious burst of inspiration. It’s a lampoon of our need for narrative, and no one these days does metafiction like Aira. —Robyn Creswell

Maybe it’s because I’m in the thick of ad sales this week, but I was particularly taken with this slideshow of vintage Village Voice ads. My favorite is for a clothing line that sells, among other things, something called the “Capitalist banker coat”: “Intrepid Gyro,” the ad copy reads, “wearing its scars lightly, stalks the surplus sub-world in quest of epic styles without compromise.” —Sadie Stein

I am indulging my primordial self with William Golding’s The Inheritors, a novel chronicling the demise of ambling Neanderthals at the hands of cruel Homo sapiens. —Julian Delacruz

Anyone who has spent any time in this fair city will get a good hoot out of “Shit New Yorkers Say.”—D.F.M.

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